Carrie Allen – What’s love got to do with it?

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Tina Turner asked “What’s Love Got to Do with it?”  Well, pretty much everything.  In honor of this Valentine’s Day week, yes I made that up, I thought it important to reflect on love in our lives.  Every day – not just one day of the year.   There are many forms of love.  The deep, soul-stirring love for your soul mate, best friend and lover (which I am happily blessed with) to the profound love for your children, love for family, friends, and colleagues.  Exchanging kindness, even with strangers, is a form of love. Every person deserves love and wants to be loved and wanted.

Many people do not know the root of Valentine’s Day, some even think Hallmark made it up.  I won’t give a history lesson here but the root of it stemmed with an ancient roman pagan festival and grew into a Christian feast day, dubbed St. Valentine’s Day, in honor of a St. Valentine.  It was in the 14th century that this day became associated with love.

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Ironically it was Esther A. Howland, a female entrepreneur from Worcester, MA, who first started mass producing cards for Valentine’s Day in the 1850’s at the young age of 19.  I think that is noteworthy and pretty cool.  Prior to this handmade cards with ribbons and lace were popular.  Today I prefer handmade anything, but especially a valentine.

Putting aside the present day commercial face of Valentine’s Day, I think it serves as a reminder and opportunity to truly focus on love in its many forms. Sometimes it’s hard to show your feelings or to move past small irritations and to let your loving feelings rise up.  Try.  We all have people in our families who make it hard.  I have dreamed of sending certain family members this book:

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I challenge everyone to focus on love.  Make sure it’s genuine, heartfelt and full of meaning.  Seriously, slow down and hold your loved ones a little closer today, stop and really listen to what people are saying.  This is what life is about.  Connecting with others, feeling loved and letting others know we care.  It really isn’t about racing to your next meeting or the next big thing and thinking how great tomorrow will be.  Make each moment count and make today great.  Make an effort to love more, and as your relationships deepen, your life will expand.  Love is a selfless investment in others with great returns for yourself. I promise.

So, won’t you be my Valentine?

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – My own private snowy Idaho

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As the snow continues to fall over Boston, covering us in its soft, white blanket, I cannot help but also think of snow-covered Idaho.  Last year, after 28 years, I found my first love again living in Idaho.  Prior to this, I had no concept of the natural beauty of the state.

img_1647According to this site, Idaho is the 17th most beautiful state in the United States. Now that I have my own private relationship with Idaho, I am continually stunned with every visit as the Gem State shows me its many jewels.

Northern Idaho’s sheer beauty can be startling and take your breath away.  Snow-capped mountains, gorgeous lakes, quiet walks in the woods with towering trees all around and more.  Enjoy the tranquility of these caught moments. I sure did.

And a few poems by Robert Frost of course…

Desert Places

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it – it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is, that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less –
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
WIth no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars – on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

Robert Frost

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Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Robert Frost

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Lost in Translation to a Journey Within

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In the summer of 2016, not long after I started my new adventure working for the Cambridge Innovation Center, I headed off to Japan with my colleagues Tim (Founder and CEO) and Makiko for two weeks in Tokyo, with the intention of expanding our work there.

I arrived in Tokyo on July 30th.  Tokyo is fabulous.  I loved it, truly, even though Tokyo is the world’s largest megacity with a population of 38.8 million people.  I kept thinking about Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation.

After a week in Tokyo, I was ready for something completely different. I felt a bit overwhelmed, unsettled and a bit closed in. I needed to set off somewhere for a few days that would help to ground me, give me the space I craved, and to experience something new.

I decided I would head to Kyoto, taking Shinkansen, the fast train.  I would stay at a Buddhist temple for the weekend and take a Zen meditation class.  I was nervous, truly nervous, but often fling myself head first into whatever is in front of me, not letting my trepidation hold me back. Emotions are complicated.

I was hopeful that with the Buddhist meditation class I would somehow journey inside, find quiet and my inner voice, maybe even something ancient and holy within me.

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Upon arriving outside Kyoto I noticed that it was Quiet.  So much quiet… peacefulness. Beauty. Bliss.  The opposite of the hustling traffic and people of Tokyo.  Even though the website had warned to not use google maps for the 10 minute walk to the temple, I did.

As I wound my way through tiny crooked streets, smaller alleys and a miniature walkway through a backyard, I realized I was trailing another woman following the same, odd, circuitous route.  I thought, surely she was headed to the temple too, and clearly followed directions as well as I do.  We smiled at each other and confirmed we were on the same path.

As it turns out, Liz had the same idea to spend a weekend in Kyoto at the temple and take the meditation class.  Liz (an American) had been living in Tokyo with her husband, who is in the military, for a year and a half.

Google maps took us to a location that was confusing and guided us to a door.  Everything was so quiet, we stared at the door, the door stared back at us … it was locked and had no signage.

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After a few minutes, a monk came out.  Excitedly we let him know we were here for the weekend and class.  He didn’t seem to understand. After some confusion and back and forth, he helped us understand, with hand signals and limited words exchanged, we’d come to the wrong temple, but as luck would have it we were not far off.  We were in a big temple complex.

We checked in and were assigned our rooms.  I decided to venture out to a restaurant called the Wonder Cafe for dinner. I saw Liz on the road and asked her if she wanted to join me.  She declined, she was running off to catch a bus to an outside market 40 minutes away, even further into the countryside.  How brave, I thought.

The next morning, I was up early and ready for the meditation class.  We lined up sitting, facing the garden.

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The monk first taught us about mediation and the importance of meditating every day for at least 5 minutes. He said the only thing that is unchanging is change itself. Impermanence, everything changes. We must embrace that and not dwell on the past or fret about what could happen in the future.  The outside world cannot impact our happiness.  Focus, breath and let change happen. We must quiet our minds, stay positive and focus on our breathing.  This helps with metacognition, which also helps with our emotional intelligence.

After the meditation class we had thick matcha green tea and biscuits as a way of prolonging our calm spiritual meditation.

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After the tea ceremony and class, Liz and I reconnected, as that morning we had decided we would leave the compound to explore Kyoto for the rest of the day.  Liz said she had met Natasja, another traveler from Denmark, after class and she would be joining us.

As I often do, I had played out in my mind exactly how the weekend would unfold.  I pictured mediation, and a calmness and quietness enveloping me.  I got that from the class that morning for sure; however, the unexpected surprise was in venturing out with two new friends to uncover what secrets Kyoto had for us.  Three women came together from different walks of life and different corners of the world.  We became fast friends.

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The day and ensuing fun unfolded in different ways.  We ate green tea ice cream, had an amazing lunch, hiked up a mountain, visited with monkeys, walked through a bamboo forest and ended the day at a tiny little restaurant and met new friends there as well.  We shared so many laughs, talked about our lives, who we are, where we came from, and about our hopes and dreams.

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All this packed into a day.

We enjoyed each other so much that we decided to meet in Tokyo the following week for more fun, which included a sushi conveyor belt restaurant and visit to a karaoke bar.  My journey to Kyoto, and within, led me back to Tokyo with fresh eyes and perspective.  In Kyoto I learned to open myself up to those around me more freely, to move past nerves of the unknown, and to live in the present.

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Carrie Allen – Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Cinnamon Vanilla Cashew Cream

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Eating healthy and serving healthy food to my kids is critically important to me.  Yet we all crave sweets from time to time so having recipes made from wholesome ingredients that actually benefit our bodies fills me with joy.  My friend Mia gave me Alissa Cohen’s Raw Food for Everyone Cookbook one year for Christmas.  It was here that I first stumbled upon chocolate pudding made from avocados.  I have adapted the recipe over the years to whatever I have on hand but the main ingredients are simple: avocados, dates (or agave syrup, honey or maple syrup – whatever you have!), plus cacao (or cocoa powder).

Last night I had to be on a work conference call (it’s hard to coordinate meetings with Tokyo) so I asked my 12 year old daughter to make pasta for dinner for her and her brother – you do what you need to do to balance work and life.  I set two avocados next to all the ingredients, thinking they would also have avocados with balsamic vinegar on top, a favorite of ours.

When I came down they were eating their pasta but the avocados were untouched.  I asked why they were not eating them and my son, who is 11, said “we thought you could make chocolate pudding with them instead.”   What a great idea!  I topped the avocado chocolate mousse (more of a mousse this time than a pudding) with cashew cream, which balances the deep rich chocolate flavor with a lighter creamy taste.

The recipe is super simple.  Here is what I made last night:

Chocolate Avocado Mousse
2 ripe avocados
1/4 cup organic, raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
1/4 cup coconut milk
4 dates, soaked in hot water for a few minutes
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and spoon into bowls.  You can put it in the refrigerator to chill for 10-30 minutes.  The pudding will develop a skin over top, just like pudding, if it sits for a while. Spoon cashew cream on top before serving.

Cinnamon Vanilla Cashew Cream
1 cup raw unsalted cashews soaked in water for 1-2 hours
1/2 cup water, plus more for a thinner cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put all ingredients into a high speed mixer (I use a vitamix) and blend until smooth.  Add more water, sweetener and cinnamon according to taste.  This will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

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Carrie Allen created this blog as a way to share stories of passion and love, big and small, with those around the world.  You can read more about this on the About page!